Friday, December 5, 2008

Any techies want to help stop human trafficking?

I'd like to implement a promising new application here at the office, but would first need to finish a a small(ish) amount of JavaScript and XML coding. In my first week here I found the time to make marvelous headway with the effort, but now I'm just too swamped to complete the work. Since I am *not* a programmer and hadn't really touched code in several years, that tells you a bit about the relative difficulty of the project. I think 15 hours probably got me from "I wonder if this is even possible?", past "Why is there so little documentation?", to "Hey, I think this is going to work!"

If you're remotely interested, here's more info:
What is the project? Petitions to courts and all other legal writing has to scrupulously cite to legal precedents and authorities (LOTS of footnotes). Zotero is a free research tool (Firefox/Office plugin combination) that would allow us to semi-automatically import accurate citations and electronic copies of cases into one database.

So....who cares? Those of you who have published in professional or academic journals probably get the general sense of how much time is spent formatting, checking, and re-checking citations. However, unless you're a legal writer, you probably can't truly appreciate just how much time is *wasted* with the immensely complex citation rules promulgated by law journal editors. If we can implement this research tool, it will cut several steps out of every research project, increase our accuracy, cut down on language barrier issues, and generally save hundreds of hours per year.

What do I need? If you can get a computer with Internet access, Firefox, and Microsoft Word, then the remaining files can be downloaded quite easily. Basically, the code I've already written identifies the data necessary for citation, and plugs (most of) it into the appropriate places in the database. The remaining pieces to plug in will just save a copy of the case into the database, and then duplicate my code for the 2nd of our two online legal resources here.

I'm not holding my breath for help on this, but if you're at all willing and able, then please drop me a line! You need not be a lawyer type...


Mary and Sam Conver said...

Sorry, I don't know the first thing about it, but I can tell you, having done way too many papers in Seminary that required very specific footnotes and such, it is truly a nightmare, and I (being a stream-of-consciousness-writer) hate it and barely survived! I actually lost more than a letter grade on more than 1 occation for that very reason! Good Luck, and Merry Early Christmas!

skingsland said...

Isaac, where is your source code located? I'd like to take a look if you don't mind.